by Ellen Margulies

Sometimes, buying organic fruit at the market feels a bit like taking the short nerdy guy to homecoming: You know he’s so much nicer to you than the hot guy in the band, but you really have a hard time getting past his plaid pants and chin zits.

But if you knew the hot guy in the band might be exposing you to 21 pesticides a day and possibly harming the environment, that choice might be a lot easier.

Ok, so maybe I took that homecoming-date analogy a bit too far, but here’s the deal with organics: I know they’re supposed to be better for me, but I have a hard time justifying the higher cost and the less-than-obvious benefits. Let’s look at a few pros and cons.

Fewer chemicals: Are organics chemical-free? Not necessarily. But they sure as heck have a lot fewer pesticides and preservatives than non-organics. You can find wagon-loads of studies out there about what these chemicals are doing to our bodies. What you can’t find? A consensus. Yes, although it would seem intuitive not to load an average of 21(!) pesticides into your toddler’s body with seemingly innocuous apple slices, not all scientists agree that the non-organic food chain is as bad as all that. Let’s face it, some of us have survived many decades that way.

Better for the environment: Organic farming is kinder to Mother Earth. Which means that maybe she won’t bitch-slap the human race – this century, at least. At the rate we’re going, global warming and super-storms and melting polar ice caps are going to kill us before all the chemicals in our food, so it stands to reason that we should embrace organic farming. It’s said to conserve water and soil as well as reduce pollution. Who doesn’t want that?


Cost: Ok, reality-check time. Organic food is outrageously expensive. From the mealy-looking apples in the produce section to the $12-a-pound ground beef at the butcher shop, organic food is so much more costly than “regular” food. I really like the idea that my hamburger lived a normal happy life running around in the pasture and eating grass before she gave up her life to go well with my fries, but Bossy is going to have to find a way to be cheaper if we want the whole population to buy into this better way of living.

Taste: Now, it’s true that with meat and eggs, you can tell a difference. It’s kind of amazing, really. But with everything else? The pasta, the potatoes, the strawberries? No. It seems so obvious that organic food would surely taste better, richer somehow, because it’s just the right thing to do. But just as in life, the right choice doesn’t always taste sweeter.
Appearance: Oh, we’re back to the homecoming date analogy again. Some of the produce can be downright pathetic looking. I don’t know about you, but I find it so hard to pick up a bruised and wimpy apple and pay three times as much for it when I don’t see an immediate pay-off.

Look, we should all be eating organic. We just should. But until they can figure out a way to make it affordable for everyone, some of us literally can’t make that choice. So maybe we can find a balance. Maybe we eat a lot less meat so we can save up for the good stuff. That’s gotta be better for you anyway. Maybe we eat organic apples and berries, and maybe we fudge a bit on bananas and stuff with thicker outsides. Maybe we let our kids eat as much organic food as possible, because I have to think they’re getting a better start in life that way.

So, back to that homecoming date. Looks like, ultimately, the choice is yours.

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